Printing puzzles for contests

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Printing puzzles for contests

Post by jupilogy » Sun 22 Nov, 2020 5:46 pm

A lot of online puzzle contests say "print out and solve the puzzles" as part of their instructions.

I'm wondering if that's a rule, or just guidance?

For example, is it there in case people expect it to be an interactive puzzle? Or is it there because everyone must print the puzzles?

Would opening it on a tablet and filling it in on there by drawing on it be against the rules?

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Re: Printing puzzles for contests

Post by Feadoor » Mon 23 Nov, 2020 8:12 am

This is an interesting question which as far as I know does not have a common consensus. There is some discussion and food for thought here:

Personally, if a contest is designed to be solved on paper, I think it's cheating. Not just because of functionality that may exist on screen which can't be replicated on paper (e.g. undo) but because even the common functionality probably gives an advantage over paper solvers. It might take 15 seconds to cleanly erase some mistakes on paper which disappear instantly on the digital equivalent.

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Re: Printing puzzles for contests

Post by GarethMoore » Mon 23 Nov, 2020 1:03 pm

It's a good question. Until recently it had never occurred to me that people would solve on screen during a competition, because to me it seems self-evident that this gives a potentially big advantage for certain puzzle types. Even though on-screen solving may be a disadvantage in some cases, e.g. if trying to solve a sudoku with a mouse in a paint package, I don't think that is relevant since if it is capable of giving an advantage then it should be obvious it isn't "fair".

However, I have discovered from conversations that this is far from a universal opinion, and there are apparently lots of solvers all around the world that solve on screen during competitions. And, of course, "on screen" can mean many different things - crude paint package, or dedicated tool full of dedicated drawing aids? Or even more than that, what if it has specific puzzle-solving aids?

There's also "on-screen" tablet solving where you write with a pencil-like tool. Is that "on-screen" solving or "paper" solving? I'd say it's on-screen if you use undo or other functions not available with paper, but even without these you are able to swap pens and erase at much faster speed, so is it fair?

Since it seems unlikely people will agree on this, then I think the best solution would be to ask those playing in tournaments to note on their submission whether they solve purely on paper, purely on screen, or a mix - and then any individual solver can filter the results how they please. For selection tournaments, such as national qualifiers, a stricter rule would be necessary, however - so I think requiring print solving, for a universal playing field, is reasonable.

Of course when printing there can be delays due to printer speed and so on, so I suppose there are always going to be at least some small reasons why online tournaments are at least slightly 'unfair'.

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Re: Printing puzzles for contests

Post by detuned » Tue 01 Dec, 2020 6:30 pm

It’s fair to say there are definitely people who are not just using paint to do things like the GP, but making use of online solving interfaces. When challenged, these people tend to say:

(A) there’s an initial time cost in manually drawing up the puzzles so it’s not clear it’s any kind of advantage

(B) they get ultra defensive at the nearest suggestion that they are doing anything against the rules, and even if they were, it’s the rules fault for not making any sense.

(C) they are somewhat sanguine about how their relative performance might be when forced to solve on paper at on site competitions such as the WPC.

The fairest thing very clearly is when all competitors are solving in exactly the same medium. Anything else seems very unsatisfactory to me m, from a competition director point of view

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